Jesus teaches us to pray to “our Father in heaven.” The phrase “in heaven” guards against us seeing God as our friend, our buddy, our sidekick. Some have allowed themselves to think too small about God.
The idea of the “heavens” in the first century was that area right around us and also all the way out into the expanse of the stars and moon and sun. The Father is close to us. But he is not small.
He is unlike our fathers. He is the one “in heaven.” There is no one like him. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me” God says through the prophet Isaiah.
We don’t need a small God, do we? We find soon enough that our earthly fathers aren’t as big as we thought they were when we were little. They can’t fix everything. They can’t be with us everywhere. They are limited.
My father stands 5’7” on a good day. As a preteen I remember hoping I’d be as tall as my dad. Around the seventh grade I started hoping I’d keep growing. Our fathers, as much as they may want to be everything for us, can fail us at times.
I did. Kris was in Cub Scouts and it was time for the pinewood derby. He had a willing father but not a woodworking father. We were given our kit that contained a block of wood, four wheels, and four nails. I didn’t have a large set of tools at the time so we borrowed what we needed and I helped guide the creation of the car.
I really did just help. When we got to the Derby it was evident other fathers did more than help. “Took over” would be more accurate. Our crudely crafted car could not stand up against the ones with modified wheels, axles, and blocks. One showed up all blue with the number 43 and I fully expected to see a miniature Richard Petty sitting behind the wheel. Kris needed a father that knew more about how the Derby really operated.
That’s why we need to remember “Our Father in heaven…” We teach preschoolers a song that says, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do.” We put into simple words for a preschooler to sing what the scriptures proclaim:
“The Lord reigns! He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, enveloped in strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken.”
“Our Lord is great, vast in power; his understanding is infinite.”
“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”
He is not only powerful, he is good. That’s important to remember. Can you imagine someone with bad character being given all power? We’ve seen it in earthly rulers and we’ve seen what corrupt power can do. This Father in the heavens is a good, good father. The Psalmists proclaim: “You are good, Lord.” “The Lord is good and upright.” “You, Lord, are forgiving and good.”
It makes a difference when you know your father is good. During college I spent a summer in Miami, Florida in an internship program. One assignment was to work with some young boys in Little Havana. Can you picture that? Several 20-year-old, Caucasian, mostly Texan kids trying to teach some Cuban kids about God?!
We did the best we could. One day we talked to them about God and how he was a good father. Before long we could see they weren’t interested. So I asked them, “why doesn’t this idea of God as father connect with you?” One of the boys, Carlos, said, “we don’t ever see our fathers. Some of us don’t even know our fathers. They go out a lot, sometimes with other women. They don’t care about our mothers. They don’t really care about us.”
That was this group’s experience. We had to help them get a new idea of God as a good, good Father. You might need that too. Listen to the repeated cadence in Scripture that God is good, kind, and a Father of steadfast love. The word “hesed” is used 246 times in the Old Testament when speaking of God. His love for you never fails. It never ends. He is kind. He is loving. He is a good, good Father.
Do you need a father like that? Jesus wants you to know his Father in the same way he knows him. Close enough that you can intimately call him “Abba.” Powerful enough that he can hold sustain the world.
If he can do that, he can certainly help you through your day. Why not go to him now and tell him about it?
Question: When do you most need a “close” but “powerful” Father?